Jamie – 26 September 2011
We haven’t been near the computer for the last week. Sorry to our regular blog readers – amazingly we average about 50 views a day – but we have been busy. A highlight for us was the Broom family staying with us for the last week and it was sad watching them drive off yesterday for the next leg of their journey.
It has been tough. I mean the lodgings are nothing like home (see photo’s below).
No sooner had I written about missing the bell tower of Uzes, and Belforte comes over the top with its own bell tower which chimes every single hour of the day, with an additional single chime on the half-hour. None of this stopping at 10pm and starting at 7am nonsense. Also, in case the bell tower fails to interrupt your sleep the rooster has a special surprise which he rolls out at 5.30am. The dogs love him doing this, and all tell him so.
Strangely we have gotten used to all of this and just roll over and go back to sleep. If it was happening in Glen Iris I would no doubt be calling the police and starting a petition, but here it seems perfectly natural and just part of daily life.
Happily we are here for another week, and are sharing some of that with my sister and her family, who arrive tomorrow at the start of what promises to be a lovely three week European vacation for them. So we are in a very social period of our travels which is a fun change and gives the children in particular some highly sought-after companionship from same-aged, like-minded, similarly behaved (you know what I mean) friends.
The Brooms and Adamsons have done plenty of exploring. We went to Florence where we climbed all 414 steps of a .. guess what … bell tower. The children also rode a century old carousel and drew the said bell tower while being photographed by 30 Japanese tourists doing it. We ate gelato. Lots of it. Bec and I also found a little restaurant near the Duomo that featured large in our honeymoon, 10 years ago. It was a magical day and we have decided to return to Florence for a few nights in a couple of week’s time to re-acquaint ourselves with this beautiful city, this time with our children.
We went to San Gimignano – which also featured in our honeymoon – and revisited “Gelateria di Piazza” which still proudly boasts the best gelato in the whole world. It has numerous world championship awards above the front door and on its walls. Who knew such a championship existed? I’m clearly in the wrong job. We climbed another bell tower and marveled at another breath-taking 360 degree view of Tuscany.
We also ventured to Radicondoli (a beautiful village just 8kms away from Belforte which has more cats than any other place I’ve been to) and Siena (an hour away) whose old town is seemingly untouched by time. We loved walking the old streets and had a wonderful lunch there. Siena, in particular, is worthy of a second visit one day.
Today was fun. It started with Foster finding a one foot long snake on the patio. It was probably just admiring the view, and in any event took off across the grass, not to be sighted again. We hope.
We subsequently googled “Tuscan snakes” and found them to be aggressive but thankfully not venomous. The boys however lost their appetite for soccer on our beautiful patch of lawn. I give it a day before fear morphs to pride, as the cousins arrive tomorrow and it will be a big story.
We then set off for another notable Tuscan town, Volterra, famed for its alabaster artistry and sheer beauty, being perched high on a hill with original fortified walls all still in place. Readers of the Twilight series of books will also know that it is the ancestral home of the vampires.
It is also home to a “Museum of Torture” which I came across and decided to visit. Thankfully I did this on my own as it was one of the most horrific museums I have ever been to. There are literally hundreds of devices in there which have been used through the ages – some recently even – to ensure that someone dies a truly gruesome death. The museum itself exists to repulse people and hopefully in doing so lead to the eradication of torture, which sadly still exists in many parts of the world.
While I came out thinking the visit was worthwhile in a morbidly interesting kind of way I should clearly have stayed with Bec. While I was learning about guillotines and water-boarding, she and the children had come across “La Vena di Vino” a wine bar adorned with literally hundreds of bras hanging from the roof, donated by various women who have dropped by for a drink. She of course completely failed to mention this to me when we re-grouped and it was only after dinner tonight that she told me about it and showed me the photo.
Volterra, lads – vampires, torture and bra bar. Put it on your itinerary.